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Avalanche Game 54 Plus/Minus: Byram Involved, Drouin Creates

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As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Washington Capitals for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Bowen Byram Gets Involved

During the first period of the game against the Florida Panthers, I tweeted out that Bowen Byram looked more involved offensively than he has in weeks. He then proceeded to get crushed in terms of shot share the rest of the game, so that kind of put a damper on that.

The good news is that he bounced right back against the Capitals and got his feet moving, picking up two assists, doubling his production from the previous 10 games. He was involved, jumped into the rush offensively, and was rewarded. In the second period, he nearly scored on a rebound in front of the net because he snuck into the high slot while the Avalanche were rotating in the offensive zone.

That’s the kind of play you need to see from him. Everyone knows he’s capable of it, but we just haven’t seen it enough this season.

+ Jonathan Drouin Creates

While he walked away from the game with zero points and a -1 to his name, Jonathan Drouin created quite a bit. In the second period, he made a beautiful delay pass to Nathan MacKinnon on the rush, but MacKinnon’s shot was blocked. Later in the second, he and Mikko Rantanen executed a perfect 2-on-2, but Rantanen waited a little too long after Drouin found him behind both defensemen. Drouin had a great chance himself all alone in front of the net later in the period, but lost the puck. It’s possible he was trying to hit MacKinnon on the backdoor, but just waited a bit too long anyway.

Either way, it’s good to see him create a little bit back on the top line. Other lines producing help take the pressure off that line on a night where they didn’t bury anything at even strength.

+ Lehky Arrives

Last night was the seventh game back for Artturi Lehkonen. He hasn’t looked bad, but you could tell he’s still settling back in as he tries to find his game. That’s a pretty significant injury he was returning from, so hardly a surprise.

On Tuesday, the floodgates opened. He made a great effort play to beat his guy to the boards to create the opening goal, then was rewarded in the second period with his first goal in over three months. The no look pass to Rantanen? That was a thing of beauty, and even amazed Rantanen.

I thought Lehkonen’s fit with Colton and Wood was very interesting. He’s not as fast as Logan O’Connor, but he’s probably got a bit more skill and works just as hard. If O’Connor’s absence extends any further, it could be a real solid line.

– No O’Connor

There wasn’t really any huge update on O’Connor last night other than he’s day-to-day, but he’s apparently been dealing with a lower-body injury, which is why he was absent last night. O’Connor has proven to be “Mr. Consistency” for this team, so any extended absence for him would not be ideal. Day-to-day can really mean anything with this team, so it’s hard to say.

– The Made Up Manson Call

The momentum of the game completely changed in the third period after the refs huddled together and called an elbowing penalty on Josh Manson. There were multiple issues with that call. One, no ref had their hand in the air for a penalty right after the play happened, and two, elbowing?!? There was no elbowing on the play at all. If there was going to be any call, I could have seen interference, as Manson got to Wilson before the puck was even there, but the bigger issue is that the refs didn’t see a penalty initially. They only called something after Wilson went to the bench injured and after they got together, which took a minute.

As usual, we don’t get explanations for calls like this, and the Avalanche held on to get the win, but something like that just shouldn’t happen in a game. And if you are going to huddle together like that, you should get it right.

+ Center Production

For the first time since Dec. 29, the Avalanche got a goal from a center not named Nathan MacKinnon, as Ross Colton got the scoring started. A few shifts later, Ryan Johansen, moved to the fourth line on Tuesday, picked up an assist after he did a nice job protecting the puck along the wall.

The Avalanche can get far with Nathan MacKinnon carrying them, but he can’t do it all by himself. Some consistent production behind him will be necessary.

– Josh Manson

Ridiculous penalty call aside, a tougher night for Manson, who had an unforced turnover that led to the Capitals second goal. That was a very risky play to make. The safe play would have just been going up the boards, but Manson tried a spinning pass up the middle, and it didn’t work at all. Had some turnovers in the second period that led to him being stuck on the ice for over two minutes.

Manson has been fantastic the last two months for the Avalanche, so just an off night.

+ Powerplay Wakes Up

It took a beautiful no look pass from Lehkonen, but the top powerplay unit for the Avalanche finally broke out of their slump, scoring their first goal since the All-Star break. They also had some good opportunities in the first period, but couldn’t break through. Slumps happen, but extended slumps like that hurt in a big way, especially as the games will start getting tighter, so hopefully they can avoid another one down the stretch.

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